Ao Kreel sat cross-legged in his ship quarters. He was roused from his meditation by a familiar pulling sensation. He pulled his sabres to him with the Force and ran to the cockpit.
“Jor-Val! What’s the readout!” He skidded to a halt as he noticed Dor Thay was sitting in the pilot’s seat. “Oh, sorry Thay, what’s the readout?”
“No problem, I’m sure you’re used to Jor-Val piloting.” Dor Thay flicked a couple of switches and read the report. “No ships on scans, just an uncharted moon. I pulled us out before the fail-safes kicked in.”
T8-T3 appeared in the doorway and tweedled something in binary.
“Rogue moon, Tate.” Ao patted the maintenance droid’s disc head.
There was a series of concerned beeps and bloops from the droid.
“Well, he stopped us in plenty of time.” Ao nodded at Dor Thay. “Thay here was a soldier, remember?”
A series of dry-sounding beeps came from T8-T3’s speaker.
“I think I know what you said, and I’ll have you remember, Tate, that I helped the Republic against the Sith and the Yuuzhan Vong.” Dor Thay pressed a button and the comm activated. “Hey, Jor-Val. We need you up here.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Jor-Val Ondelios came running from the back of the ship. “I was in a pretty deep meditation. Hyperspace is pretty calming…wait.” He looked out the viewport. “Oh, I guess I was really deep in meditation. Didn’t feel us pull out of hyperspace.”
Ao sighed deeply in an annoyed fashion. “Sorry, I’ll have to report this to Explorer Corps.”
Shrugging Jor-Val motioned to the comms console. “I think it would be for the best. If nothing else we need to map the course of this moon so other ships can calculate around it.”
Dor Thay shook his head. “I know we’ll have to explore some of the moon, that’s just how Explorer Corps works.” He motioned for Jor-Val to take the pilot’s seat. “I’ll go gear up.”
– – –
Dor Thay stood in his full gear from when he worked with the Republic marines. The suit was able to seal air-tight and had a slot for the air tanks that the vac suits on the ship used. The port was obviously modified to fit the civilian tanks, but the job looked solid.
“Thanks for the upgrade, Tate.” Dor Thay popped a canister into the slot. “Just wish I had some touch paint. Looks weird to have bare silver sticking out of the orange and grey suit. Oh well, the job’s solid so thanks again.”
T8-T3’s singular eye rolled and he turned to the suit he had pulled the regulatory piping from and started to strip it for parts.
Ao grabbed a suit and his custom helmet. He did all the straps and zippers then he and Dor Thay looked over each other’s suits.
“All clear?” Dor Thay asked.
Ao nodded an affirmative. “Let’s go on a nice EVA jaunt, shall we?”
The airlock opened and T8-T3 joined them in the small closet-like space.
“Tate,” Ao began, “I’d love for you to come like old times, but…”
A dejected whistle emanated from T8-T3 followed by a couple of chirps as he backed out of the airlock.
“And may the Force be with you.” Ao looked at the decals on T8-T3’s arms. “When we get back I’ll fix up your kill marks. How’s that sound?”
The series of beeps T8-T3 responded with sounded halfhearted as the airlock cycled. Ao and Dor Thay were now in the cold vacuum of space on the surface of a previously unknown and currently uncharted rogue moon.
The four adventurers approached an opening
in the ground. Instead of a cave, as Dreekt had expected, there was just a
tunnel mouth flush with the ground. It wasn’t a hole in the ground, but instead
it sloped underground at a 40-degree angle. If they didn’t know it was the
opening to the Dark Under the entrance would look like a jagged, oval hole in
“So,” Julian said, “this looks like the
entrance to Dark Under the governor described.”
“Right.” Gaemacirch shrugged his pack from
his ferret form. “Hey, Dreekt, can you put on my armor for me?”
With a quick nod Dreekt kneeled at the bag
next to Gaemacirch’s head. “Sure, but you’ll need to talk me through it.”
“What,” Gaemacirch whispered, “is wrong? You
keep looking at Julian like you’re seeing a specter.”
“Remember when I used the dagger?” Dreekt
whispered back, pulling the armor from the pack.
Gaemacirch glanced at Julian who was arguing
with Burner about something. “Yes, but what’s that have to do with him?”
“Well, I remember being at Hereweald and
Wassa’s house for that, first, and the events in the forest seem to be
different.” Dreekt started sorting the armor to the best of his ability. “Head
or tail?” He pointed to a triangular piece.
“Head. See the concave rounded spots? Those
go next to my ears.” Gaemacirch sighed deeply. “So, in the forest Julian got
killed? I assume it was Mad Cedar. It knocked him out against a root, did he
hit harder and break his neck?”
“No, that would’ve been quick and clean. He
was impaled through the chest with a branch. I don’t know what happened to his
heart, but it was gone.”
Gaemacirch shuddered at that. “Ok,” he said
louder, “that’s the correct arrangement. Start putting it on starting at my
tail and working toward my head.”
“So that from the front it’s harder to get
under the plates.” Dreekt was clearly making a statement and not asking a
The work of attaching the armor went
quickly. The leather tabs had been designed to easily clasp but would take more
work to remove them. Dreekt knew, however, that if Gaemacirch transformed into his
humanoid form the armor would be forced off and only his undergarments would remain
on his frame.
– – –
“So, Gaem, why stay in the ferret form?”
Dreekt suddenly ducked under a low-hanging rock. “Question withdrawn.”
Gaemacirch chuckled. “Exactly why.”
After a few minutes of traveling along a
winding, branchless tunnel Burner, Dreekt, Gaemacirch, and Julian found
themselves in a large cavern. Looking around they spotted at least four exits
from the cavern.
“Well, what direction should we go?” Burner spoke
softly, but in the silence of the cavern it sounded much louder.
In the distance they heard the scratch of
claws against rocks and the sound of rushing air.
Julian turned the dimmer down on his hooded
lantern. He spoke even more softly than Burner had, “I’ll try to keep the light
down, but I need this to see.”
A large sack of flesh with tentacle-like
tendrils growing from the sides floated over a rock and into view.
“Shast.” Burner swore under her breath.
“Looks like we’re going to have to deal with gaseous tendrils whether we like
it or not.” She pulled her short bow from her back and nocked an arrow wrapped
in cloth. “Give me some of that flame, Julian.”
With a sigh Julian opened the lantern enough
for Burner to light the arrow off the flame. The arrow burned a strange green
color, close to Julian’s skin tone.
“This is a little something I picked up to
deal with these guys.” Burner loosed the arrow at the gaseous tendril and when
it struck the creature exploded in a purple light. “Oh, that was more intense
than I expected.”
The skittering grew louder as the group
looked for cover. They quickly realized there would be no cover as more of the
gaseous tendrils floated into view.
“Can they give away our position, Gaem?”
Gaemacirch nodded at Dreekt. “Yes, the
gaseous tendrils and the skittering creepers have a symbiotic relationship. The
creepers follow the tendrils around because they’re drawn to creatures that the
creepers see as prey and the creepers attack them, protecting the tendrils.
Then, when a gaseous tendril gets old enough, the gasses inside can no longer
provide enough ballast and the skittering creepers get a free meal.”
“That sounded nice until the end, then it
got dark.” Dreekt shuddered.
“Welcome to Dark Under, where the name says
all.” Julian readied a hatchet, brandishing it menacingly while still holding
the lantern in his other hand.
Dreekt noticed a second hatchet on Julian’s
belt and realized that when he was threatening Mad Cedar he had done so with
only one weapon. As he was thinking about this Dreekt’s memory split and he
remembered what happened in this version of events. Julian had threatened the
tree, raised his hatchet against Burner, realized what he was doing before he
struck, dropped the axe, and then the tree conked him over the head. He had
never struck Burner, and in this version of events Gaemacirch had not arrived
to slice through his shoulder tendon with a throwing knife.
“Dreekt! Head here and now!” Gaemacirch
intercepted a skittering creeper that had leapt at the distracted skravyn.
Shaking the thoughts from his head Dreekt
readied his dagger and started to ready a spell. “Thanks, Gaem. If you can hold
them off, I’m going to conjure something.” He turned to address Burner and
Julian. “Once I do this you guys can decide if you want to light it or leave it
to hinder them.”
Burner lit a candle and used some of the
melted wax to attach it to a rock. She nocked another arrow, lit it, and fired
at another gaseous tendril. “I’m focusing on the tendrils. You really don’t
want to deal with those.”
With an annoyed sigh Julian set his lantern
on top of a different rock and opened the hood all the way, creating a large
circle of light for himself. He pulled the second hatchet from his belt and
hacked through a skittering creeper. “I forget, are these things good to eat?”
“Do you see a paladin or cleric here?”
Gaemacirch pounced on a creeper, gouging deep into its hide. “Oh, or a druid.”
He bounced off the creature and landed next to Julian, prepared for another
Dreekt finished some chanting and plucked a
small spiderweb from the cave floor. He motioned with his free hand at the area
the skittering creepers were coming from and a web formed out of the energies
he had summoned, covering the ground five feet deep, using various rocks and
low-hanging sections of the ceiling as anchor points.
One of the skittering creepers had been
mid-jump when the web had appeared and was caught above the ground, unable to find
purchase to break free of the web.
Burner put her shortbow away and grabbed the
candle. She walked over to the web. “I’m going to light it. The skittering
creepers will just follow us later if we don’t deal with them now.” She bent
over and put the flame to the webbing. Instantly the immediate web was ablaze
and it didn’t take long for the rest of it to catch. There were screeches of
pain followed by silence as many of the skittering creepers died at the same
“That was eerie.” Julian’s green skin turned
a slightly paler shade and he started swaying slightly.
Dreekt instinctively steadied Julian by
tossing Julian’s arm over his shoulders and his arm over Julian’s shoulders. “I
don’t think we have time to be queasy. I’m sure that fire’s going to attract
something else, so we need to move.”
“Agreed.” Gaemacirch nosed Julian. “Look, if
you need to ride for a little that’s fine, but I’m wearing armor so it won’t be
Julian grabbed Dreekt’s staff from his pack
and leaned on it a little. “No, I think this will help, if you don’t mind.”
“Go ahead. We’ll move faster if you can move
on your own.”
“I’ll give it back in a few minutes, I’m
sure.” Julian stuffed some small pieces of cloth up his nostrils. “And this
helbs with the snell.”
“Well, which tunnel should we venture down?”
Burner pointed at two tunnels that were to the left of the tunnel they entered
through. “Left, or right?”
“Heroes go left,” offered Dreekt.
Burner nodded. “Well, that’s fine with me.
Left it is.”
“Why would heroes go left?” Gaemacirch
asked. “I thought right is always right.”
“I’m left-handed. That’s why.” Dreekt motioned at the dagger in his left hand.
Gaemacirch rolled his ferret eyes and followed behind Burner.
[Author’s Note: I started writing this book…around ten years ago or so? Wow. Anyway, this is the third time I started over writing Iaceo and this is a better draft than the first two, in my opinion. As with the other books and stories here I am working on this wile I post it. Enjoy.]
After school Daren Medakus worked a part-time job at Shadow Trading Cards and Hobbies. The third trimester of his senior year was starting tomorrow, and he was only half paying attention at the register. The shop closed in five minutes and it was empty, so he let his mind wander to his weekend training. Up until recently he had trained with his father every Saturday morning. Now, though, his father was on a long assignment from the council and wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
“Oi, Daren! Pay attention!”
Looking up from his thoughts Daren saw a customer waiting
silently in front of the counter. “Sorry, didn’t hear you.”
The customer put a few card packs and a board game onto the
“Silent, eh?” He started ringing up the items, the customer
still said nothing. “That’ll be thirty-five fifteen.”
The customer handed him a fifty. Daren held it up to the
light to check for the watermark. There was none.
Daren looked over to where Cal was restocking. “Hey, Cal!
Can you double check this for me?”
Cal Stver set down a box of board games and walked to the
counter. “What’s up?”
“Please tell me I’m just blind.” He handed the bill to Cal.
The bill was held up to the light once again. “Yup, you’re
just blind. You want me to ring him up?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna go home.” Daren swapped locations with Cal
and went to the employee room to time out. He picked up his school bag and
walked out the back of the store.
Daren went to get in his pickup and realized his vision was
too blurry to drive. Something was wrong. Very wrong. He pulled out his phone
to call his father the phone dialed but then came back with a busy tone.
Cursing under his breath Daren started to call his mother but stopped and
walked back into the store. Cal had his key in the lock when Daren opened the
“Yo, something wrong?” Cal asked.
“I don’t feel so…” Daren fell forward and Cal caught him,
laying him down gently.
“Well, that’s not good.” Cal pulled out his cell and called
Daren’s mother. She picked up immediately. “Hey, Neta it’s Cal. Daren just
passed out on the floor. You may want to get down here. I’m calling a medic.”
“I’m coming. Don’t call a medic though, I know what’s wrong.
Give him water and something to eat when he wakes up.” Neta hung up the phone
and grabbed a few bottles from the cellar shelf before rushing to get in her
car. “Now he’s gone and done it. Why didn’t he listen to me this morning?”
Daren woke up in a chair in the staff room of Shadow Trading
Cards and Hobbies. Cal sat in front of him with a bottle of water and a snack
“Good morning sleepy head. Your mom’s on the way.” He held
out the water and snack bar. “Your mom said to get you something to eat and
drink. Are you okay?”
“I think so, mom warned me this morning. She said to drink
that brew before I left.” Daren looked for his backpack. “Something about the
flow of energy in the area or something.” The words left his mouth before he
realized who he was talking to.
Cal chuckled. “Yeah, you magical types always slip up around
me. I must just have that kind of face or something.” He held up the snack bar
again. “Eat. I’ll get your grimoire for you.”
Daren took the snack bar and water in stunned silence. How
did Cal know he was looking for his grimoire? How did he even know what a
grimoire was? He opened the snack bar and took a bite. “Tastes vaguely of
aloe…a little weird.”
“Yeah, just had a sample case brought in. I don’t think we
need them for anything, though.” Cal was rummaging through Daren’s messenger
bag. “Ah, grimoire.” He set the book in the seat next to Daren. “So, you aren’t
going to kiss a vampire later, are you? The aloe tends to burn.”
“If I was I’d be taking my life in my hands already.” Daren
finished the bar and drank some of the water. “So, what are you, anyway?”
“Your boss. If you need something more specific than that we
can talk about it later. I think your mom’s here now.” The sound of a car
engine reached the staff room. “I’ll go let her in.” Cal stood up and started
toward the door. “Oh,” he said without turning back to Daren, “if you want to
know more just look up my family. The Stver line is an interesting one. I don’t
know everything myself. I don’t have the resources you probably do.” He left
As soon as Cal was out of sight Daren opened his grimoire to
somewhere in the middle and pulled out a pressed flower. He then turned to a
section near the front and started reading from it. He instantly felt better as
the flower disintegrated and a protective layer of magic surrounded him.
Neta walked into the room and saw Daren’s grimoire open.
“Close that now, young man. You’re in enough trouble as it is.” She got closer
and whispered. “What if Cal found out?”
“He already knew.” Daren closed the grimoire and held his
hand out. “Just give me the potion. My mana’s out of whack.”
Neta sighed and handed two vials of thin powders to him. One
was blue and the other was orange. “Mix it in the water and drink it all. The
blue one is Blue Ash.”
The powder was already mixing into the water. Daren put the
cap on and shook it. “What’s the other?”
“Orange flavoring. Blue Ash tastes terrible.” Neta watched
as Daren started to drink. “Good. I’ll go talk to Cal.”
“Before you do that, do you know anything about the Stver
“They run a cult in Armenia. Cal has no ties to them,
though. I checked”
“I don’t think that’s what he meant when he mentioned his
line. Do they have any abilities?”
Neta shook her head. “If they do you have the thing that
might tell you right there.” She pointed at his grimoire. “That was your
grandfather’s and his grandfather’s and his. Maybe it has something on the
Stver line.” She walked back into the main part of the store.
Daren drank the rest of the water and felt his mana balance
back out. “Stupid mana flux. I thought the report said it was over. Whatever.”
He started to flip through his grimoire. “Hmm…Stver line. Armenia.”
Cal was waiting for Neta behind the store counter busying
himself with some inventory. “Ah, is he doing okay?”
“Who are you?” Neta looked him up and down with menacing
eyes. “How did you know what Daren was?”
“I’m a seeker.”
Relief washed over Neta’s face. “Why didn’t you just tell
“Because I’m not with the council. I technically don’t have
to tell you either.” Cal turned back to the inventory and continued counting.
“Do you have any connections in Armenia I should be worried
Giving up trying to count while having a conversation Cal
walked to the same side of the counter as Neta. “If I did then Daren wouldn’t
be working here, would he?”
“No, he’d be dead.”
Daren walked into the main store room. He didn’t seem to
have caught the last sentence. He was reading aloud from his grimoire. “The
Stver line split into two distinct groups around the time that the Armenian
Apostolic Church was founded. Half the family moved to Europe and eventually to
America while the other half remained in Armenia. The group that moved to
Europe, and eventually America, took a peaceful role in their new home while
the group that remained in Armenia worked against peace. One thing remains the
same, however. Every fifth generation of the Stver line one of the children is
Cal nodded. “That’s right. Who wrote that?”
“My great grandfather. He seems to have had an interest in seekers. There’s a lot of information in here.” Daren thumbed through a few pages and read again. “Only exceptionally strong seekers can sense a warlocke. Most of the seekers of the Stver line are such seekers. Well, that explains that.”
In front of Dreekt the mist formed into a
man. A human man. The man was familiar, but Dreekt couldn’t place where he’d
seen the man before.
“Ah, Dreekt. I believe that at this point in
your story we haven’t met yet.” The man smiled crookedly.
Blinking a few times Dreekt looked around
the man, trying to remember who he was. No matter how hard he tried the
identity slipped away from him but was always just on the edge of awareness.
“No, I don’t believe we’ve met before, mister…”
The man smiled. “The man who has control
over time, yet that time forgot. I know you’ve heard of me, and probably have a
feeling you should know me. Almost everyone does.” He sighed and sat on a chair
that hadn’t been there before. “I’m The Pathfinder. The god of time and
prophecy. This is the second time you visited this place, and the first time
you’ve done so on purpose. What knowledge do you seek?”
“I didn’t come with anything specific in
mind, I just wanted to see if the dagger worked.” Dreekt thought about what The
Pathfinder had said, about having not met yet. “So, you really can
travel through time.”
The Pathfinder nodded. “You know, I had
assumed you acted so calm with me before because you have seen me here many
times before. Now I know it’s just how you are. Calm even in the face of a
A chuckled escaped from Dreekt’s beak. “No,
I think it’s because my physical form isn’t here, so I don’t have adrenaline
pumping through me.”
“That’s possible, I suppose.” The Pathfinder
motioned to the mist. “Well, what do you want to see?”
“How the excursion into the Dark Under goes
in general.” Dreekt put all of his mental awareness towards the mist and it
started to swirl, revealing flashes of images. The Pathfinder watched,
silently, as he focused more on the details. The scene slowed and Dreekt saw
Burner and Gaemacirch again. This time they weren’t talking, but were fighting
a large, arachnoid creature. Behind them another arachnoid dropped from the
ceiling and blocked them in.
“Shast, we need to get out of here!” Burner
said as she stabbed at the first arachnoid. “Quick, call for Dreekt.
“You told him to stay behind. He’s at the
tunnel where we found-” Dreekt couldn’t make out the name. “He’ll protect them
and get them out of here. We’re on our own.”
The arachnoids attacked then and Dreekt
dropped his focus on the scene when it was obvious they would fall to the
“So,” The Pathfinder asked, “what will you
do about it?”
Dreekt shrugged. “I’ll try to set things up
so they don’t get separated from me, but as you must know, that doesn’t always
“Right, some things can’t be avoided once
you set foot that way.”
“I know that an easy way to avoid this is to
not go in the first place, but if I can save someone’s life by going there and
have a chance of getting everyone in my party out alive, I have to take that
The Pathfinder nodded knowingly. “I
understand. Now, go back to your body. Try to save your friends from their own
future, it’s not inevitable.”
– – –
Dreekt woke up in a chair in the Blue
Flagon. “Wasn’t I Hereweald’s house when I activated the dagger?”
Gaemacirch looked at Dreekt, confused. “No,
we were talking with Wassa in the Blue Flagon when you activated the dagger,
Is that right?
Dreekt silently asked the spirit within himself.
Most definitely not. We were in the house
when you entered the trance. I went with you, though The Pathfinder seemed not
to notice me.
I didn’t either…or I guess I don’t usually
notice you, so I didn’t notice you weren’t there.
::I knew about your friend. Oh, and
sometimes small details change when you use the dagger and stone together. I
think you’ll enjoy the next plot twist.::
Dreekt wasn’t sure how, but he knew that the
person that just spoke was The Pathfinder and that he communicated in a way
different from Dreekt’s spirit.
“So,” Julian said, “the tree whisperer
Dreekt stared wide-eyed at Julian, then immediately
hid his surprise. “Yeah, that was different than the first time.”
Burner walked up the stairs from the
basement level. “Oh, good. Dreekt’s awake. Let’s get going.”
Julian stiffened up when Burner approached. “Yes,
boss.” He spoke in a tone that made it clear he didn’t like taking orders from
“Julian, I know you don’t like what happened
with Adalet, but she attacked the three of us first. You were the one who
“Right,” Julian agreed, “but I wasn’t the
one who killed her instead of capturing her.”
Gaemacirch stood between the two. “Look, I
understand you’re upset, Julian, but you know that you can’t break the contract
with Burner. The Wanderer’s travel laws protect our actions, and you know it.”
“Whatever, let’s just get going.” Julian
picked up his pack and moved towards the door. “Maybe that tree should’ve
killed me instead of knocking me out. Then I wouldn’t have to know Adalet died.”
::She didn’t die, the poor fool.::
Dreekt shrugged and put the dagger into his
pack, then he pulled it back out, wrapped it in cloth, and put it back in the
pack. “Don’t want to misuse this,” he mumbled to himself.
“Come on, Dreekt!” Burner was already at the
door to the Blue Flagon.
A wizened old hand grabbed Dreekt’s shoulder
right before he followed his companions out of the door. He turned to see The
Desecrator for the second time in two days. “You unknowingly snatched someone
from my hands. Next time that happens I will take something from you.”
Dreekt’s retort froze in his throat as The
Desecrator turned into a column of black smoke and dissipated.
That’s not good.
Dreekt thought to no one in particular.
::Don’t worry about him, The Balance approves
of your inadvertent action. Julian shouldn’t have died before.::
Are you always going to be in my head
::No, just until midnight. That’s the rules
of The Black Gem.::
Dreekt turned back toward the door and ran
after his adventuring party.
The tarrasque looked at the small guard outpost. A group of creatures left the building. It cocked its head to the side, trying to decide what to do. It shrugged slightly and moved back to its original path. It passed within two meters of the guard outpost, knocking it over with the tremor from its passing.
“What was that?” Throbor asked. He glanced at Tribst who was sketching the creature in his spellbook.
“Yes, tell me what it was called so I can title this sketch.” Tribst put a few finishing touches on the drawing.
Erin shook her head and sighed. “That was a tarrasque. Apparently they just walk around the plains here.” She fell silent and looked over towards Aram.
Aram was kneeling and seemed to be praying. The rest of the party waited for him to finish before turning and walking back toward the forest. It was still raining, but now they had nothing under which to take cover.
The trek to the forest was mostly uninterrupted. They saw few beasts during the day, and those they noticed at night kept their distance. Lurking just outside the firelight, eyes aglow. During one such night Aram’s and Erin’s watches overlapped.
“So, what’s it like?” Erin asked.
Aram sat up from his bedroll. “What’s what like?” He pulled his sword from the ground beside him and stood to belt it to his side. He strapped his shield to his arm with the quickness of long practice.
“Living among non-human creatures. It probably just feels normal to you.” Erin shook her head at her self-perceived naivete.
“Actually, on Yerkir, the humans are on a pogrom against winged snake creatures.” Aram shrugged. “I don’t know how it started, but both sides are vehement about killing. At least most of them…I don’t really want to talk about it.” He motioned at Erin’s bedroll. “You should sleep. Long day tomorrow.”
Erin shook her head and went to her bedroll. To her surprise there was a suit of studded leather armor next to the bedroll with a note on top.
“Erin, this is the armor I made for you. It should fit pretty well because I was praying to the metal while I did the ritual. Don’t worry, I stayed in the camp while I did the ritual.”
With a grateful sigh Erin lowered herself into her bedroll and let sleep wash over her.
– – –
Tribst shook Erin awake with his hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. He whispered to her as he pulled his hand away. “Shh. We’ve surrounded by creatures all night, but some of them are getting closer. I think they’ve been following us since the tarrasque passed by.”
Looking around the camp Erin noticed a pride of lions surrounding them. The sun was slowly rising from the horizon.
“Well, at least they don’t have a blue aura.” Erin said, now knowing that silence would make no difference. “Teblats would not be a welcome sight.” She started putting her new armor on with the help of Tribst.
One of the lionesses approached the camp. In an instant all eyes were on the creature, prepared to fight it off. Then, to everyone’s surprise the creature changed shape into an elf. The elf had short pointed ears, one of which had several wooden earrings.
“Greetings, outsiders. We have been tracking you for the past few days. Why do you go to our forest, and how did you escape Domhan?” The elf stared at the four of them, awaiting an answer.
The snow fell lazily on the strange
salamander’s corpse in the morning light. It had taken hours to kill the
creature, but they had done it. More footmen had joined the fight as it
progressed, but they still lost the majority of them.
The sixteen remaining men stood near
Gaemacirch’s humanoid form. The ferret armor sat in a heap and Gaemacirch wore
simple, tight-fitting clothes. He was helping the men move the bodies of their
comrades. Four of the survivors were footmen who had thrown spears at the
strange salamander. Only two of the archers were remaining beside Burner, the
acid breath of the creature reached as far as the arrows had.
Dreekt was helping put the bodies onto a
cart to take back to Dregton for a funeral and burial. Gaemacirch approached,
carrying the captain’s body.
“He fought well. Do you know if he had any
family?” The captain’s face was untouched, but acid had eaten at his body.
“Yes, a wife.” Dreekt helped place the body
carefully onto the cart. “He said to talk to her about a dagger if he couldn’t
explain it.” Dreekt handed the scimitar-like weapon to Gaemacirch. “It looks
Gaemacirch studied the dagger for a moment.
“Hmm. Well, Dreekt, I need to get back to helping the men.” He handed the
dagger back. “Your cart should head in to be emptied.” Gaemacirch turned away
then half collapsed.
“Gaem!” Dreekt steadied him. “I think maybe
you need to come with me.”
Looking at his shaking arms Gaemacirch
nodded. “Yeah, I probably just need some rest.”
Dreekt nodded then helped Gaemacirch onto
the driver’s bench. He pulled himself up next to him. “The men can handle the
One of the men waved. Almost all the men
helping clean up the dead were the archers from the wall. “Hey, Gaem, go get
some rest! We won’t start burning the Dark Under creatures until you get back!”
“Remember to harvest the strange
salamander!” Gaemacirch yelled back as Dreekt started driving the horses
Part way back to the wall Dreekt slowed down
and waved to Burner. She was throwing a skittering creeper onto a pile. She had
changed into black robes instead of her purple ones. Dreekt assumed it was so
the ichor wouldn’t show up as a stain later.
Burner waved back and started walking toward
the cart. The weariness in her eyes shone through the falling snow. “We going
to get some rest?”
Nodding Dreekt motioned to the captain’s
body. “We found him.”
A deep sigh escaped from Burner. “Well,
that’s good. It would’ve been better to find him alive, though.”
He’s not dead yet. Dreekt heard in his head.
“Hey, did we check for a pulse?” Dreekt
hopped off the seat and went behind the wagon. He climbed a small ladder and
reached for the captain’s neck.
Burner shrugged at Gaemacirch and walked to
meet Dreekt at the back of the wagon as he pulled the captain down. She helped
lower him to the ground and pulled a small mirror from within her robe. She
held it to the captain’s nose, reflective side towards the nose. The mirror
fogged very slightly. “Shast!” She pulled a flask from inside her robe and
poured it on the captain’s acid burns while humming a dirge and casting a
healing spell. After the spell the captain’s breathing became steadier.
The captain’s eyes fluttered open slowly.
Dreekt pulled his waterskin from his belt
and slowly dripped water into the captain’s mouth.
“How did you know, Dreekt?” Burner put away
the now empty flask and pulled her pack off. She was waiting for an answer as
she searched for bandages for the man.
Dreekt paused from giving the captain water
and looked at Burner. “I just had a feeling. We can discuss later. We need to
get him back into town.”
Burner nodded and started binding the
captain’s wounds. “What’s your name, anyway? We never got it.”
“Well, hold on Hereweald. We’ll get you back
to your family soon. I just need to clean and bind these burns.” She motioned
for the flask of water from Dreekt. “If it weren’t for Dreekt here you’d be
counted among the dead.”
Gaemacirch made his way around to the back
of the cart, leaning on it the whole way. “Well, the old soldier is alive after
all.” He nodded to Hereweald.
“I’ll be right back.” Dreekt stood back up
and jogged over to one of the archers who was tossing a skittering creeper on a
pile. He quickly told her that the captain was alive and to send for a
stretcher. He jogged back with her. “Take the cart and Gaem back to town.
Burner and I will stay with Hereweald.”
Gaemacirch nodded. “I would prefer to stay
here, but I need my rest. I collapsed earlier.”
– – –
Hereweald sat on a bed on the first basement
floor of his house. His wife, Wassa, was watching as Burner applied a new set
of bandages and hummed a healing spell.
Burner got him to drink a sleeping draft and
eased his head back onto his pillow. She looked back at Wassa. “He’ll need his
bandages changed twice a day. I don’t have anything for the pain other than
making him sleep. I’m not an alchemist, you’ll need to get one to make you
“Of course, there’s one near the Flagon. If
you’ll go and explain what we need I’ll send Johnny with you to pay and bring
“Oh,” Burner said “the mayor said he’ll pay
for any medicine for the first month. He says it’s the least he could do and
wishes he could do more.”
“Thank The Kindness. That man has been the
best mayor this town has had in a long time.” Wassa motioned to the house
around her. “If you need a place to lay your heads, you and your two friends,
you will always be welcome here.”
Burner smiled, her eyes glowing under her
cowl. “Oh, I’ll be sure to take you up on that offer the next time we’re in
town. We’re leaving tomorrow to the cave where these creatures are coming from.
With these many casualties you won’t be able to defend yourselves against even
a small fraction of the numbers we fought.”
Wassa nodded. “Tell Dreekt I need to talk to
him about that dagger Hereweald gave to him before you leave.”
“Right. He told me about that as we came
back into town. He’s on the ground floor. Let’s go to the alchemist.” Burner
nodded at the young human in his early twenties who looked like Hereweald and
Wassa’s son. He had been on inner defense in case the dark under creatures had
Gaemacirch and Dreekt were waiting for
Burner on the ground floor. Dreekt sat in a chair and Gaemacirch was curled up
in his ferret form on a rug in the center of the room. When Burner walked up
the stairs they stood up to leave with her.
“Wassa is coming to talk to you about the
dagger.” Burner motioned for them to stay put.
Dreekt nodded but stayed standing. He pulled
his pack off the floor and set it on the chair. He started rummaging through it
as Burner left and Wassa walked up the stairs.
“Getting the dagger out?” Wassa nodded to
Gaemacirch and approached Dreekt. “Show me the dagger and I’ll explain it.”
Dreekt pulled the dagger out of his, pulled
it out of the sheath, and set it on a nearby table.
“You see the hole in the hilt? There’s a gemstone
that’s supposed to go there.” She motioned at the hole. “It’s called The Black
Gem. It looks like an onyx stone, but with less of an albedo.”
Dreekt looked at Gaemacirch with wide eyes. “Umm…Gaem?”
“Hold on. I’ll go get it.” Gaemacirch stood
in his ferret form and started loping out the door toward the Blue Flagon.
Wassa’s eyes went wide. “You have The Black
“Maybe. It’s the right size, matches your description,
and definitely has magic energy surrounding it.”
“Ok, umm.” Wassa took a deep breath. “Well,
the dagger allows the wielder to channel The Black Gem effectively without
suffering the ill effects. It allows you to tap into its powers without
succumbing to them. It also stores the blood of your enemies when paired with
the dagger.” She pointed at a series of small, intricate runes in a shallow
trench along the curved blade. “It becomes more effective against those enemies
for a short while and allows you to react to them faster in combat.”
Gaemacirch loped back through the door, a
small bundle in his maw. He placed the bundle on the table next to the dagger.
The wrap around the stone burnt off and the stone floated into the air. The
dagger also lifted off the table and the two started spinning rapidly. Dreekt pulled
Wassa away from the table and watched as the two objects got closer together
then the dagger dropped, still spinning, onto the table with the gem in its
“Well, that answers that question.” Dreekt
reached out for the blade and it floated into his hand. “Uhh, is it supposed to
“I’ll go out on a limb here and say yes.”
Gaemacirch said, keeping a close eye on Dreekt. He positioned himself where he
would cushion Dreekt if he fell.
“Think about something you’re going to do
soon that you want to know more about. Burner told me you’re going to clear out
the dark under caves. Maybe focus on that?” Wassa watched anxiously, also ready
to catch Dreekt if he fell.
“I’ll try.” Dreekt focused on the mission and saw the mist he had seen when he touched the stone the first time, only this time he had control. He didn’t feel it, but he somehow knew that his body had fallen and been caught by both Gaemacirch and Wassa. As he focused on the mist a scene began to play in front of him.
Lousro’s hand rested on Ao’s shoulder. “I think constructing your lightsaber here, in a Darkside Nexus, probably isn’t wise.”
Ao nodded and scooped up the parts he had pulled from pouches under his robe. He started to put them back when T8-T3 opened a compartment and beeped at him.
“Oh, thanks.” Ao put the parts in the compartment then followed his master to the cave exit. He turned to T8-T3 and smiled. “Don’t freak out.” He used the Force to float T8-T3 up the steps. He wouldn’t need to use his jets for this journey.
T8-T3 freaked out for a moment then seemed to calm down. When Ao set him down he turned and give him a small jolt with a welding arm.
“Fine, fine. I won’t do it again.”
“Ship’s this way.” Lousro pointed. “Now that the trials are over it seems we’re allowed to just leave.”
Ao nodded then registered what his master had said. “Trials? What did you face in there?”
“Myself. I doubt I’m the first, and probably not the last, to face themselves in that cave. The dark they keep hidden deep. I sense you faced your darkness in a different way, but you, too, prevailed.” Lousro nodded his head, his snout bobbing from the motion.
Ao decided that his master wasn’t going to tell him any more than that and decided to practice moving meditation on the way back to the ship. He had just gotten himself centered when they were at the ship. “Wow, that’s way closer than I thought it was.”
“And you lost your concentration because of it.” Lousro smiled slightly. “Surprise is something to be prepared for, but you are never prepared for.”
“Great, philosophy. I need to think of mechanics now, not philosophy.”
Lousro shook his head. “If you aren’t in the right state of mind when you make you lightsaber you will fail. Now is the time to think on the nature of the Force on this world and calm yourself.”
Ao nodded, then noticed every hatch on the ship was open. Dismay began to dig its claws into him, but he centered himself again in the Force. “Well, I guess I’m going to build the lightsabers in my room.” He turned to T8-T3. “C’mon, I need those parts back.”
T8-T3 complied, opening the compartment with the parts in it. As Ao pulled them out he noticed a few extra parts. They would work great for the type of lightsabers he had discussed with T8-T3 before. Ao smiled broadly. “Thanks, bud.”
– – –
Ao sat in lotus position, his eyes open and staring at his lightsaber parts. He had locked himself in his quarters by detaching the wires to his door and manually closing and locking them. All the other doors on the ship were currently locked in the open position. He had offered to help T8-T3 with the mechanics side of fixing the doors, but he had insisted Ao go work on his lightsabers.
He had started by modifying the parts at a workbench in the cargo bay, and had originally intended to finish building his lightsaber in there, but then it had started raining. There was a top-hatch in the cargo bay and the rain was so thick the entire cargo bay was soaked in moments. Ao didn’t mind the wetness, but he did mind the relentless pounding of the rain against his body.
“Clear your mind. Focus on the parts, not what led you here.” Ao mumbled to himself. He started to focus on the metal and crystals in front of him. He closed his eyes. He would be distracted by them. He had already done all the mechanical modifications. He wanted to use the Force to piece them together, fit them better than any modification he made would.
Breathing deep Ao reached out to the Force and felt the parts in front of him. The crystals showed him how they wanted to sit. How the parts should fit around them. To his surprise the larger of the two crystals wanted to fit into the shorter saber and vice versa.
Reaching deeper Ao refitted some of the parts using the Force. Something he didn’t realize he could do. He didn’t bend them like he had seen other padawans do when pushing metal with the Force, instead he encouraged the metal to form into a different shape and it listened.
Ao felt the lightsabers were as complete as they would be with the Force helping him fit the pieces together. He opened his eyes and pulled a tool from his belt. It was a small one that T8-T3 had given him to tighten the small bolts on the cargo door hydraulics. It was the perfect size for adjusting the tightness of the screws on his new lightsabers.
Finally, after what seemed to Ao to be no more than three hours, he lifted up his two lightsabers. Holding the longer one in his right hand and the shorter one in his left hand he activated them at the same time. They were both blue blades with a soft crackling of yellow on the edges.
Ao decided the yellow was the stun energy and tested the smaller saber against his arm. His skin dried out quickly and he felt the solid blade shock him. The blade wasn’t trying to cut through his skin, but he pulled it away.
“Well, I guess I’ll still need my cutting laser. This won’t cut through anything.” Ao shrugged and powered down the pair of sabers, then glanced at his chrono. “Huh, it’s been six hours, not three.” Stretching a little he used the Force to unbar and open his door. There was a meal sitting on the floor, covered with multiple layers of plastic wrap, with a note on it.
It’s been two days since you started meditating with you lightsabers. T8-T3 tells me you should be done soon. Judging by how long my fellow padawans took before I agree with him. You should eat. Finally made that stew I kept talking about.
Ao looked at his chrono again in shock and noticed the date stamped on it. “What the druk?”
Expecting a scolding Ao prepared an apology, but nobody said anything. Walking to the cockpit Ao saw that most of the strange mold had been scrubbed away, but he saw no sign of his master or the maintenance droid. Shrugging he sat on the cleaner of the chairs and began eating the stew. It tasted delicious, though that could have been because he hadn’t eaten for over 48 hours.
As he ate Ao realized that the doors had been fixed. All the exterior hatches had been closed. He smiled and set the empty bowl on the ground. Then he felt a tugging sensation in the Force. It wasn’t focused on Ao, but he felt the echo of its affect on his master. He stood and jogged to the back of the ship. The cargo door opened as he approached.
“You felt it to?” Lousro asked as he fluttered onto the ship.
“Yes, master. What was it?”
“A call from my old master. We’re going to Manaan.”
Ao nodded. “You did mention she was a selkath. Master Tyranna, right?” Ao waited for T8-T3 to enter the ship then shut the cargo door. Water was still pooling in the cargo bay and Ao thought he heard a creature nesting somewhere.
“Yes, she is.” Lousro shook his head. “I’m worried because it felt urgent. Like something is finally coming to a head.”
“The Sith war?”
“No, something else…” Lousro started up the ship’s engines and started the assent out of the atmosphere. “I fear a larger war has begun.”
[So ends Lousro on Dagobah. The story of Lousro was played out just over a year ago in Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Force and Destiny. The character died by performing a Holdo maneuver on the flagship of a Yuuzhan Vong worldship. No he didn’t ram the worldship, he rammed the Yuuzhan Vong fleet with the world ship. The game may have gotten a little out of hand…]